Saturday, July 14, 2012

#344: Suzanne's Career

(Eric Rohmer, 1963)

Made a year later, Suzanne's Career is like a reverse Jules and Jim, where two men compete over who gets to reject a woman the fastest. It's a painful and depressing undertaking that is ultimately only redeemed by Rohmer's sure hand and a passably satisfying conclusion.

Although Suzanne's Career is twice as long as its predecessor, The Bakery Girl of Monceau, it's still under an hour. Along with its non-feature status, it shares a number of more relevant attributes with the earlier film: both are narration heavy and center around extremely self-absorbed and unlikable protagonists who entertain the attention of a woman they have no interest in. But the little narrative touches in the earlier film - the ritual of the cookies, the documentary-style depiction of Paris that interacts with the plot, shaping the men and women of the film in such a way that it becomes a character itself - have been expanded into deeper plot points. This is most notable in the case of the missing money, which becomes a sort of third-act MacGuffin that is mostly there to indicate how shallow and useless the relationships that our protagonist has established are. This makes Suzanne's Career a slightly more committed look at where Rohmer's later installments in his series would end up, but the details have yet to become fully formed.

Fortunately for both the series and the viewer, once Rohmer made the jump into features the characters become a lot more interesting and - even if they aren't exactly the Dude - a lot more likable. The length of Suzanne's Career allows for a bit more leeway in this regard, and it prevents the film from descending too deeply into the dark corners of the mating game.

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